A Tale of two Democratic parties | Arkansas Blog

A Tale of two Democratic parties

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While this week's Democratic National Convention will nominate Hillary Clinton, it remains a party where the supporters of Bernie Sanders have a strong voice and could create some significant shenanigans in the coming days. The big news of the day — the resignation of polarizing DNC chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz — was driven less by the recent leak of embarrassing emails by party officials than by the drumbeat of criticism of Wasserman Schultz by Sanders and his ardent advocates over the months of his campaign.  

In my walk around Philadelphia today, Sanders supporters were more decidedly more visible than those of Clinton. A flurry of protests on issues that drove support for Sanders — groups opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, fracking, and the use of nuclear weapons and energy — were held across the city, and Sanders supporters were out in large numbers at those events.

Sen. Sanders' speech tomorrow at the convention will be his delegates' opportunity to celebrate the quite remarkable accomplishment of creating his strong candidacy over the past year. The Clinton campaign hopes that this opportunity for Sanders supporters to loudly Feel the Bern for an hour on national television will aid the healing in the party.

Tonight, though, both Sanders and Clinton supporters came together at the two parties welcoming delegates to Philadelphia. The Arkansas delegation was part of the group whose party was at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where folks were able to eat and drink on the steps that Rocky Balboa tackled and wander the galleries that include the stunning Thomas Eakins pieces that have not yet migrated to Bentonville. 

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The demographic differences in Clinton and Sanders delegates match those that were seen throughout the primaries. Clinton delegates are disproportionately older women (one delegate on my flight from St. Louis to Philadelphia wore a "Votes for Women" sash reminiscent of the suffragettes), persons of color and gay men. Sanders delegates are thoroughly young and ideologically driven whites who were the cast of perhaps the best advertisement of campaign 2016; they typically are clothed in pretty awesome homemade Bernieware (Pinterest meets democratic socialism).

In the Arkansas delegation, Sanders delegates are dramatically outnumbered because of Clinton's strong performance in the state's March 1 Democratic primary, but other delegations are more evenly divided, and word on the street is that the Clinton and Sanders camps in those delegations operate in two different orbits. If Clinton is to succeed in November, there has to be some significant bridging of that divide. Senator Sanders' speech tomorrow will be a key moment in determining the path forward.


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